I try to write this blog in a way that anyone can read it without feeling unwelcome. I know for a fact that I have some "non-church" readers, and I never want them to quit being a part of this blog. That is why I do the wide variety of things I do - movie reviews, running show diaries, goofy stuff. And I try to keep the blatantly "Christian" posts to a minimum - I'm not ashamed of them.
With that being said, I think everyone who knows me knows what I believe. I have never hid that - all the way back to my days at Conniston Junior High and Forest Hill High School. My blog description mentions my profession. And today, I want to write a "churchy" post. This is to and about Christ-followers. If you aren't one of those, feel free to keep reading - but don't feel bad about skipping this one and picking up with the next one. [And if you want to know more about what that means, just let me know -- now I feel like a true Baptist minister.]
Yesterday we went to a new church. I hate trying to find a new church. It is one of the most uncomfortable things to do. A church is more than just some place to hang out on Sunday mornings. It becomes your family and friends. That is why it is so hard to find one - like finding a suit. Finding a suit is my nightmare clothes adventure. I have bizarre dimensions. I have this very large gut, which means that I have to get a larger chest size. That then causes the top of the suit to billow out in ridiculous manner. I also have a long torso (you can't tell so much due to the large gut). So I have to buy long suit coats. HOWEVER, compared to my height, I have short legs. I am around 6'3", but my inseam is only 31". So I have to find these pants with a huge waist and short legs -- which rarely are worn by people with a long jacket. Combine all of that with the fact that when I wear everything the same color (like a suit) it just makes my head seem very small and my body look ginormous.
Finding a church is like this. You try them out and see if they fit. This one may have great preaching and decent music, but no Bible study. Another one may have great music and Bible study, but have a pastor dancing near heresy every week. Or - even worse - finding a church that is great in every way except it holds onto a false teaching in a major area -- something you can't ignore. So you wander around like a nomad. I always want to decide on one fast so I can skip the whole shopping process.
Anyway, I went to this new one yesterday. I'm very familiar with the church - know a lot of people there. I admire what it does and stands for. I even have a history with it. At the end of the sermon, the Pastor started talking about how, as Christians, we are supposed to be servants. And he called the church to change how the community viewed it. He wanted them to serve the community - to help with groups like Coalition for the Homeless. He mentioned Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and said he wanted the church to do stuff like that for Orlando. Man, I can get behind a church like that. That's what I want to do - that's why I quit to work full-time for Defender Ministries. I wanted to serve the community and help them to escape the prison of lust and sex that they are captives in.
As the day wore on, I started to think about something. How did the church get to the point that the community does NOT think of them as servants? Wasn't that what defined the church for so many centuries? Think about the hospitals and children's homes and schools that were built by churches. The church fed the hungry, and gave shelter to the homeless. They took in orphans. I just finished reading the book Hood by Stephen Lawhead [awesome book, by the way]. It is painting the story of Robin Hood in a post-Norman conquest Britain. The churches there were welcoming to travelers and injured and poor. They were the CENTER of their community. How did that change?
It actually made me upset that a pastor had to work so hard and appeal so passionately to his people to convince them to act that way. I was thrilled he did - and I hope they follow through on that challenge. They have the resources to make a HUGE difference. But how in the world did it get to this point where that was considered a revolutionary vision? I have heard a lot of indictments of Christianity this year. I read Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz and In Search of God Knows What. In those he skewers the church for failing to have concern for social needs. I watched as a major church leader was outed and destroyed on the front page of CNN.com. I watched as a major Christian actor got drunk and hurled racist insults - and as a result made anyone who liked his last film seem like a racist too. I listened as a major Senatorial candidate from my state repeatedly made comments about Christians and their "duty" to their country - which made us sound like a bunch of quacks. And I read Elton John's comments about how he admired Jesus Christ, but wished that religion would be banned due to its hatred.
But perhaps the greatest indictment of Christianity is that we went introspective and stopped giving a crap about the world around us. Instead of turning our 6 million dollar budgets lose in the community, we used it to build ourselves up. We built more buildings, paid higher salaries, created witty ad campaigns, and took "mission trips" to exotics locales. But we stopped trying to change the community we were a part of. We pulled our kids out of schools, pulled them out of sports, pulled them out of choirs and created our own versions of those things so that our kids would not be harmed by the world around them. We created our own television studios, radio stations, theme parks, movie production companies so that we could have things our own way - without having to interact or battle with others.
I can see the blood rising in some of your faces. I am not saying that all churches suck, and all homeschoolers are wrong, and that Upward sports is a mistake. There are perfectly acceptable reasons to do all of those things. But, the reality of the matter is, we have managed to create a world where we do not have to interact with anyone who does not believe in Christ except at the grocery store. Sure, they are more than welcome to COME TO US, and COME TO OUR STUFF. But we are NOT going to GO TO THEM and GO TO THEIR STUFF. That would be offensive to us and damaging to us -- we would be ruining our witness or putting ourselves in the path of temptation.
But the problem is, THAT is where Christ hung out -- with the sinners and tax collectors and prostitutes. And THAT is what He told us to do. Read Matthew 28:19-20 again. It starts off with "GO YE THEREFORE INTO ALL THE WORLD." The very first word is GO. It is not, SIT AND WAIT FOR THEM TO COME. It is not even DRAG THEM TO YOU. It is not INVITE THEM TO YOUR STUFF. It is GO. You should get up and GO to them. And while you are there with them, you talk to them, and you introduce them to Christ, and you teach them what it means to be a Christian. You are the active one. You are the one going and clothing and feeding and giving water to and helping. You are the one with all the active verbs.
The Church and Christians should be all about serving. That is the example set by Christ. We should be out there really ministering to our community -- and not some lame-o, half baked thing once a year where we hand out water at a stop light. I mean consistently living in a manner where we are helping. I know that I am guilty of being too caught up in my own world to be able to help anyone around me. But we HAVE to stop being so selfish and focused on ourselves. We HAVE to reach out to the community. The more we remove ourselves, the less we have any right to expect them to listen to us or respect us. If we don't care about them, they won't care about us.
I truly hope that this church really does start to focus on the world around them. I hope it becomes a defining quality of that place. And I hope I can get involved -- and that I will do that in my own life. If we ever expect the Church to be anything more than just a "members only" group, we have to start looking outside of our doors. And we gotta GO.